It took about two years before Francis cracked a smile with me. He's in his late 50s or early 60s, Caribbean accent, grey afro, permanent scowl. I see him, depending on my work schedule -- I am a freelance costume designer -- sometimes as often as five times a week. He's the guy who cuts my fabric at the discount store in South Philadelphia.
Here's what I know now about Francis: He moved to the U.S. after his wife persuaded him to leave Barbados. Less than a year later, she died after a brief and unexpected battle with cancer. That was over 20 years ago. He still works at the fabric store. He hasn't married again.